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Randolph Township becomes latest Arizona site on National Register of Historic Places

The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office is designating a new site into the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Randolph Townsite Historic District is a small community in Pinal County, about an hour southeast of Phoenix. It was established in 1925 and is considered Arizona’s longest-surviving Black community that’s associated with the Great Migration of the mid-20th century — when some 6 million African Americans moved from the South to other parts of the country. 

Kathryn Leonard, state historic preservation officer with with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, says less than 1,000 people live in Randolph today.

"Residents of Randolph are a really interesting blend of African American, Native American and Mexican American heritage. And that heritage is expressed through their annual traditions, practices, festivals," she said.

Leonard estimates there are around 10,000 properties on the National Register of Historic Places. Randolph is made up of several historic properties inside one district, including a special designation called a traditional cultural property. It's a designation reserved for sites associated with particular ethnic groups — the El Tiradito shrine in Tucson is another site with the designation.

Leonard says Randolph is significant because of it's connection to the Great Migration. The townsite was founded by Black families who were moving West, after being unable to buy property in the deep south during Jim Crow-era segregation. 

"These were families that decided to move west to Arizona for opportunities, where they landed in Randolph and were able to own land and built a community that is essentially completely unique to Randolph," she said. "It is a really unique, one-of-a-kind African American community in Arizona, and the intermarriage that occurred between those folks that were part of the Great Migration with the surrounding Native American tribes, the Gila River Indian Community predominately, has created this really interesting cultural blend of traditions."

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.